Leave European football, take control?

We have surrendered control of football to UEFA and FIFA — a conspiracy of foreigners imposing their diktats on us.

It has always been a problem that matches are overseen by unelected referees, clearly biased against us, whom we can’t remove during the match itself. But things are going from bad to worse.

We no longer control the offside rule. When the decision was taken to change the rules so that players are onside if they are level with the last defender, that decision was taken by an international organisation. Although we fully supported the decision, the fact remains that it was not taken by us as a sovereign nation. Now it’s enshrined in international rules that we cannot change unilaterally. Why shouldn’t we be able to play by different rules, if we so wish, in international matches with other countries which also agree to do so? Maybe San Marino, for instance.

We first introduced the idea of 3 points for a win, instead of 2 as it used to be, in our league formats. This new idea of ours was then taken up across the world: it applies in World Cups and European championships, as we’ll see next week. But why should that rule apply to us, if we change our mind? if we manage to persuade the other three teams in our group to play by the old system, why shouldn’t we?

The rules for each group should be a matter for the sovereign teams involved to negotiate among themselves in each group each time. And if we agree to dispense with the actual matches and go straight to penalty shootouts, that would keep our players fresh and injury-free for the knock-out rounds. If teams in other groups protest that this is unfair and they prefer a level playing field, well, too bad — it’s the price to pay for national sovereignty!

There can be no better illustration of how we’ve lost control than the international calendar imposed on our clubs. Under the pretext that certain dates must be kept free for international matches, this red tape forbids our own domestic clubs from playing on a dozen different dates a year. Think of the price we have paid: just for the convenience of a few days a year when we know other countries will also be free of domestic constraints and able to play us, we have surrendered our sovereign right to decide our own domestic calendar in accordance with what suits us.

True, without such a calendar, we would have to negotiate each date with other countries. We or them would have to give way and hastily rearrange domestic fixtures. But surely we would always win in such negotiations. We should have confidence in ourselves. After all, we invented the game! We are one of the top dogs in European football: only 13 European countries have reached more European championship finals than we have!

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